Saturday, June 30, 2012

How to produce award winning media - the Pop Idol Phenomena to copy

The presidential war room, the hub, the television studio meeting all share one thing in common, they are prosceniums that bring together like minded people, of a particular calibre, and in that setting exists the potential to produce strategic ideas, creative presentations or award winning programmes.

As part programme maker and media theorists the following example provides evidence of a methodology in which the future of a successful format is not so much planned, but a work in progress that highlights how the methodology accidently comes together.

There is perhaps no bigger branded television franchise show than Pop Idol. Advertising within the show costs $700,000 for 30 seconds and there are some 50 shows a year an expert announced on the the BBC's radio Britain in a Box. The following teases key moments, combined with my own interpretation.

Unlike many programme ideas, Pop Idol did not go through the normal treatment-commissioning process. It was a loose idea based on Pop stars - an antecedent show which introduced the notion of a critic being honest with the public.

Until then, and largely still ongoing, television personalities tend to be all smiley-feely with non-professional participants because any derogatory comment firstly contravenes the fairness approach adopted by programme makers, but that permanent damage will befall those shamed in front of 7 million viewers.  Oh and watch out for the law suit as well.

Phil Donahue may have introduced the idea of confessional TV to Britain, before Oprah, now commodified on the UK's Jeremy Kyle show, but at least you know what you were in for.

Nina Myskow, the UK equivalent of the blunt and acerbic Joan Rivers changed that. So Pop Idol brought in the baddy, but when Pop Idol set out it wasn't Simon Cowell who had to be prodded  to become a judge by the ITV executive Claudio Rosencratz, but I am ahead of myself.

Creating the idea
Pop Idos on paper - nothing more - was being air lifted to the BBC, which would not have been difficult because it was nothing more than a piece of paper about the jurors being the public - and it had no title.

The first exciting bit -subterfuge - occurs when with five hours from a presentation to sell the idea to  BBC execs Rosencratz gets sniff of the meeting and clears her schedule for a two o'clock meeting.

And in they poured - a lot of Simons - she says, Cowell, Fuller and others.  The pitch was made. Rosencratz needed to raise her boss David Liddiment, who was stuck in meetings, so she committed to it anyway, 50 shows n' all - which would be a lot of money for an untried format.

The programme did not have a presenter, so Donny Osmond was targeted. Sadly, his management gave the TV bosses the merry run around prompting the thought now whether he's still with his management. So cheeky-chappy presenting team Ant and Dec were called into a meeting, with the limited role of just introducing the show, and saying bye bye folks.

Then the first of the organic innovations. As the contestants were whittled down to 10 for the live show, the innovative schema would now kick in. The judges, as agreed, would no longer play a part in the show. This came as a surprise to Rosencratz, who threatened to pull the show.

Her logic was the viewers would relish the chance not only to vote, but to put one over on the judges. It's the equivalent of the custard pie in your face lark. If you disagree with the judge, here's how you get your own back. So, the judges need to stay, even if they did not have judging rights.

Another innovation of the hoof, was Ant and Dec, whom invited to watch rehearsals and ready themselves for their big 30 second moments of topping and tailing the shows, started to roam among contestants. They had time on their side, and both boys being dramatist ( in the nice sense) empathised with contestants following their Cowell maulings.

The Film makers concepts
This pathos introduced the filmic equivalent of the emotional arc. If someone was singingly really badly, the presenters would register the same emotions anyone at home would mirror. Remember at this junction of TV, this would be on camera jocularity would have been considered inappropriate.

I know this well, a video I produced which was part of an ensemble that won an award shows me speaking to my interviewee, outside of the television interview performance. It is the equivalent of verite, as Ant and Dec would show.

The next magical bit is serendipity in as much it's the luck you couldn't wish for, because you can't even plan it into your programme because it is not an integral part. Ergo, this was a singing contest, but a tawny lad walked into the auditions with his sister and stuttered his way into telling his name.

My (pause) (pause).. name, is, is... (stutter) ( long pause) (stutter)... Gareth Gates. He didn't stand a chance, not in a month on sunday.

Yet, he sang like a lark. To film makers this is what's known as a semantic field. Good-evil, poor-rich, black-white, the heart of a good Hollywood film, when two polar fields come together we are reduced to uncontrollable wrecks.

Gareth, the hot favourite spurned the programme makers to another idea on the hoof- the back story. Aware people would want to know more about the contestants, they hastily constructed contextual pieces on them.

Gareth, Will Young, and a bit part player who wedged herself into the limelight and thus set up another semantic field was Katy Price, aka Jordan: the weedy teenager and the flaxen butsy vixen.

And then to perhaps the last obvious ingredient, a postmodernistic desire for people, and acceptance by industry to continue to debate, influence the show within the moment and out of hours: twitter.

Been here before
This wasn't the first time 360 degree involvement in a media shows had been mooted. In the 1990s the US box office hit Homicide Life on the Street allowed its fan base to watch a new made-for-the-internet show, whilst the Matrix created an anime franchise to capitalise on the 'noise' its mind bender.

Pop idol had an immediate communication platform, between ordinary fans echoing and heckling their two bit, on the basis of what they thought, but also motivated to accrue retweets to build their own individual fan-base.

What therefore defined the show was a combination of an understanding of cognitive behaviour in audiencing, and the ability to change direction according to feedback looping within the idea, but above all, and as I'll go onto to prove with my next post, you need people who know there field, experts from different disciplines coming together to co-develop.

In lectures I give this harks to the "wisdom of crowds",  in which the intelligibility of the collective group, if allowed to work with, and creatively against the grain can produce award winning anythings.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

If only we did media like football

Stanford Bridge - watching Chelsea.
You've probably heard it before, the apocryphal story of the scorpion hitching a ride across a river on a frog after swearing the frog will come to no harm, because naturally the scorpion would die.

Then like clockwork, halfway across the river, the frog feels a sharp pain and cries out to the Scorpion, why did you do that, we're both going to die.

The scorpion's reply: "it's in my nature".

So sums up English football, and in no small measure a chunk of the way we tend to do things.

Your three year old niece learning how to feed her little Bratz could have told England fans, technically boys you don't stand a chance.

But we soldier on; win one game, two and by the third believe luck has nothing to do with it. It's in our nature. And it happens each time the team take to the pitch, to the chorus of "C'mon England" as die hard fans fork out a small fortune.

It ends with, "we weren't good enough on the day, but we'll make it next time". It's in our nature.

Pity the hapless million pound stars, whom on English soil regale fans with "biff, biff, balls" as sturdy athletes, with thighs the girth of a baby calf, charge the length of the field and single handedly, gladiatorially, win the ball.

Now that's proper football they'll tell you, as someone delivers a silky punch to his opponents mid riff. Did I hear you say Joey Barton? Google him. Now that's football and its in our nature.

But do pity the English national game, because frankly if the new manager had all the time in Churchill's kingdom to revise plans and a strategy, he simply could not.

Because percentage-wise a large majority of the English game play "biff, biff, balls". "C'mon my son run for it'.

English footballers wouldn't know how to hang on to the ball, let alone thread five connecting passes together, because they've never been taught that way. And playing on the biggest stage after a couple of weeks together will not change that.

Here's the crux. For every ball that went to Hart, the goal keeper, and a fine one at that, he "biff, biffed, the ball" high on yonder for a hapless forward to "do you "#2ging work and get the ball". It's in our nature.

And if you don't believe me, next Sunday roll a dice and turn up to any green patch with a goal and listen to the next generation - all of ten years old - goaded by their parents to: "kick it, go on kick it.. anywhere..."

Interestingly enough, not a single commentator made the point that Hart, for the love of Osbourne's redactable pork pies tax, stop kicking the bloody ball and throw it. Oh no, it's in our nature.

So let's look forward to the World Cup, to renewed hype to sell shirts, tickets, and newspapers. To a nation that sadly again will be, for goodness sake, found with its pants around its knees.

Oh we're good enough, it's just we've got a thing with frog legs actually and truthfully that really is in our nature

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Future Moving Image Makers - Videojournalism inside tips from

If you're familiar with this blog and  viewmag, then you'll know that since 2005 it's been sharing ideas on videojournalism.

In the last couple of months I have been writing a taxonomy about non-fiction making and wanted to share one theme with you, which gives you a flavour of the text.

From the many memos and contemporary documents I have been examining I came across a five page memo from one of my managers, who wrote this:

"Sometimes they will shoot on-the-day stories to back up a breaking news event. Sometimes ( and I used the example of  Leah Betts) all four might have to drop what they're doing and pitch in to get the stories for an on-the-day special".

Leah Betts was the tragic story of a young girl who took ecstacy and died in 1995. This paragraph that I have lifted from a 1995 Memo sent to us videojournalists is profound in many ways, in what it meant then almost 20 years ago and what it represents now. Nick Pollard, the originator of the memo, would become the head of news at sky a year later.

The videojournalists oeuvre 

Firstly, that the videojournalists worked on the day to turn around stories is common knowledge to most practitioners. What it doesn't reveal is that VJs would file in around three stories a day.

That aside, if you're able to do that now there's a sense of epiphany you develop approaching a story, in which rather than being complicit with what you know, you approach a story suspicious of what you don't know, and what you're being told.

But the idea of having four videojournalists work on a story is the gem and was used on the IRA bombing of London and other stories, but in a particularly co-ordinated way.

Now when the videojournalists were not working disparately on a bigger canvas story, they would be in close proximity within the theatre of the story and that meant understanding and coordinating what the acting profession calls "blocking".

This involves where you want an actor to stop, so you can place another camera to provide a different view point and a continuity of sequences.
One of three cameras I used. One is in shot. I'm shooting with the other...

Sounds simple enough, not getting in each other's shot path, but it was understanding what frame shot to pick up when you're colleague left the image, that was the interesting event.

The idea of different view points which surfaces between Edwin Porter and DW Griffiths in the early 1900s is one of film makings most eloquent and amazing developments and its held steady since, with more elaborate multi-shot angles devised, except in broadcasting which due to the costs meant one camera, one person.
In this frame from Chicago I have placed clandestine cameras around my run path.

So going back to the Memo, Nick Pollard has found a way for the videojournalists to act as ensemble directors picking up different view points for one production.

Yet what if you work for an outfit where you don't have enough videojournalists to simulate, here's the stylistic breakthrough

As a videojournalist you'd do well to understand multi-camera shooting, in which YOU operate a number of cameras. On the shoot I did for the Southbank and dance company I used four different cameras, placed strategically to minimise blocking. The picture above gives you an idea, as does these below working with Nato, and then my first Mac back in 2000 working with two cameras.

While the camera is the capturing device, what is significant is your understanding of spatial thinking. Where should I be, how does that orientate the viewer, what's the significance of the next shot?

Because, and this is the singular theme from all this: You're speaking through the art of spatial compositioning which placed on a screen is a film, within a building is architecture, and a fixed canvas is design.

What therefore do I conclude:

  • That the idea of one camera, one person is defunct. It's a legacy of the 1900s. If you ask anyone why they only have one camera they will probably not be able to give you an adequate answer.

  • That you would do well to try and learn spatial camera narrative. A part of the text, which I won't go into here involves a philosophy of thinking, transported to filming, developed by Heidegger.

  • That some interesting concepts exist that have yet to translated into common currency, which I guess is what I am doing now.

  • And that I hope to at some point extend a masterclass on narrative.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Super docs, super films, now Super News - the future of news

new BBC building off Oxford Street

Sociologists would have us believe we're in the age of individualism, self identity, and the rise of bijou, in the smaller cottage networks.

One of those, the BBC is definitely not, the other is questionable, while the last spells the project's conclusion.

We've had the super structures, super films in Inception rallying against the Indie, the rise of the super docs which would leave you little change from $1,000,000 and now its super news.

You could argue we've always had super news in the big globals e.g. Reuters, Sky, ITN, ABC, NBC, CBS, the BBC etc.

But this is different. Call it Mega news, because the sight of the BBC's new headquarters inside, more than outside is exactly that - a statement of intent that screams: "Don't you know who we bloody are? We're the BBC".

BBC from the 5th Floor - light deco and reds

Surveying from the 5th floor, both underneath me and on top, where Radio 1 is, the site and deco is something out of the jump or google building - though I didn't see any table tennis boards.

Like its White City sibling, it's open plan, with studios dotted all across the floor. The main ones are in the basement being finished off I was told.

For BBC World Service figures, the musty smell of mahogany and coves for private debates will be as distant a memory as the name "overseas service". Thus far, it's believed generally people are settling in well, though desk space is a premium, so as one journalist put it, sharp elbows could be dangerous.

The news desk however is the closest thing to Star Treks coms, with an assortment of feeds and monitors

Monitoring news from the desk

Downstairs on the sub floor, the innovation that is the heart-and-artery news room is evident, though its still has some finishes. BBC Television News are prepping to be beamed in around September.

BBC News pod- heart and artery shape 

The sight of journalists reacting to a breaking story in this proscenium will be something worth seeing, which you can see, because it's also a public gallery which you can reach by literally taking fifteen steps off the street. And it won't just be journos being watched by your aunt peggy, because apparently there's a rostrum camera on wires that can whiz by journos, to give us the viewer, well a "journo-eye-view:.

BBC Journalists will have to watch what they read, as newspaper journos train their camera on them in an attempt to fill the gossip columns, with "our newspaper is clearly favoured by the BBC'.

At full pelt Oxford Street residents will see nothing like it. Seemingly, the architects had no interest in decentralisation, notwithstanding Salford's migration, so in the evenings home time could be quite a sight.

Ford would clearly be proud, but what's this thing about bucking the trend of sociologists? Well, Mass Communication was a 1920s concept under Lord Reith, its then Director General.

In the 1990s the philosophy was towards the individual. The very presence of the web, websites, citizen journalism and the rest added to the sense of small is good. We've seen that equally in record companies setting up sub labels.

News for a while too fell into its smaller division of labour or at least upheld the illusion with offices all around London. Now that philosophy is about to be kaiboshed. If cinema can do it and win audiences, why not news, you can imagine the strategists proclaiming.

So here's to Super News.  The hope of course is that this doesn't mean reverting only to super stories.

Thanks to James for showing me around :)

More pics soon

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The University of Quiddity - Viewmagazine's university

You can't remember can you?

And when you do, you want to apply everything you've remembered.

How to be the best,  how to create the most arresting video, how to win friends. It's stupefying that there exist no part in the brain, neuroscientists could have named "how to".

Of course there isn't because cognitive thinking is more peripatetic.

It roams searching for a place to land after imbibing ideas on the way.  "How to" is a resurgent 21st century phenomenon. It is more direct, constrains the matrix of "packet" thinking and its existed in some form or shape since the Book of Ecclesiastes and before.

Then, it provided answers how to lead a rich God-fearing life.  Then as much as now, we digested this knowledge attaching a great deal to its literal denotative value. Turn the other cheek and we physically did, when others walked away.

Today, "how tos"are so pervasive,  we're in danger of heading for a cognitive cul de sac.

We forget like the scene above, structures bend, compositions change, condition differ. In the next second, the pattern of people around me will have altered and I will be moved from my spot.

David Training at the Chicago SunTimes in Chicago.

And that's the analogical point. What works where, and how can never prevail in perpetuity. There is no fixed "how to". The mesh of communications is too vast for packaged formulas.

It was exposed in Mass Communication theory, Users Gratification and Transmission models, albeit, they enjoyed moments in the sun until the 1960s, before the post structuralists took over and now in the 21st Century it's the era of Quiddity, and the Quidditians.


Quidditians want to know why rather than just "how". They're not sullied by the mass, but intrigued by the individual. Their thinking is phenomenological: "to the things they are", one of its architects intoned.

It is about the idea, becoming an author or as Schopenhauer would say, having something to say.

I am considering creating a university. It would combine ethnographic journalism if that's not tautology -articles researched in the field to build knowledge. 

It would consider competing philosophies in conjunction with the warning that everything we learn is conditional. That's the beauty of knowledge,  that the more you learn, the more you understand and the more you understand should undermine previous ideas, which leads to confusion and debates about meanings.

From here further discursive learning should help untangle your state of mind, but this stasis can only be temporary.

A scholar yesterday piously condemned journalism asking for a return to its roots, and abandoning of theory, when the irony was he was himself promoting a theory, a theory of the skeptics, whilst forgetting their is no grand theory any longer. There never was, but we were too concealed from knowledge to know.

There is no tablet of knowledge. Mosses destroyed the principle physically, if not connotatively.
David discusses ideas with Tinia in Lebanon

The university would recognise that it's not disciplines and the promotions of "how tos" that are the principle cause of angst, but that there's something in the art of critique, the bold idea, which drills deeper and deeper  - which by default discards those ten points - and cognitively and flexibly considers how to think like the the prosumer.

It would flatten the hierarchy of learning, where the lecturers train and curate and Quidditians wisdom-of-crowd study.

It would attach more emphasis in our discursive world to artistic practice as expression, and logic or rhetoric as the power to rationale an idea. Then it asks what do you believe in and why?

You can't remember again, can you?

Remember what I have been saying because you might have been expecting a "how to" - that's the crux of the problem.

Here are my ten points...

In his career, David has worked for ABC News, BBC World Service, WTN, Channel 1, Radio 4, Channel 4 News, BBC Newsnight, BBC Reportage and through his thesis is devising a taxonomy of storytelling. See more on

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Egypt's social and media contract future

David interviewing the former director of Chatham House

Under Chatham House rules I am unable to tell you about the speakers who attended this high level talk on UN development report in Egypt, or their affiliations.

As Egypt stands primed for a new leader, attention is weighted towards kick starting the economy.

A couple of interesting stats emerged from the UN report whose key indecis is a new social contract,  and the protection of the weak.

  • The banks of Egypt we heard had $450bn in liqidity for funds they are waiting to spend upon.
  • Tax as pecentage of GDP is the lowest in the world
  • Water shortages is a real issue
  • The oil industry is the main foreign currency earner
  • The military uses twice as much fundings as that put in health and education
  • Jobs are not being created and the hardest hit are women.
  • Payments to the political cliques should end and the exclusion model had run its course.

Middle east watchers may have heard all of this before, but I wanted to know how accountability could be procured to keep a watch on political and economic changes.

In the last four years working with MDLP and Tarek Atia, we've been working within the state TV, Nile TV to institute a new journalism of probity, taking in videojournalism.

The response was that this was much needed, but the failings of the current model, even those on the left we heard was that anti-goverment journalism leans so far to the left that it become the equivalent of "gotcha journalism".

Clearly journalism has a role in the new democracy 

ideas for students and others TedXWestminster Triumph

Its name has become synonymous with excellence, otherwise known as ideas worth spreading, but TED in spite of all things great needed a reboot.

Its founder Chris Anderson's new idea worth spreading was the TED brand itself. It needed to go local, get to the community, find new constituents.

TEDx, x, signifying independence was born- a franchise. You borrowed the name, staged your own events, and adhered to some simple guidelines.

One of them I have learned is sitting through two online TED presentations, both worthy in Reggie Watts, and Geoff Mulgan investing in a post crash world  as such a forceful way of spreading brand loyalty

The borrowers here had something unique on offer, something delivering within the interstices of graduate pedagogy and the professionals workplace.

Welcome to TEDx made by university undergrads, for grads with a little help in the way of former lecturers.

It was  all courtesy of Chelsea, a student who'd assembled a remarkable team of colleagues, a triumph for students, and women given their line up.

Emily Giles - a technologist demonstrated how the humble tea pot can be transformed into an array of devices, whilst Rebecca Murch told her story about turning adversity into a winning formula. She was forced to at the age of 22 years to run a business after her partner walked away.

Ideas worth Sharing
On one occasion, she was so overwhelmed a regular customer of her coffee shop donned an apron to lend her a hand.

You could only have the utmost admiration for what the students had achieved, reflected through the eclectic speakers and I won't fault the organisres, but watching some of the presenters it did make me think, what makes for an engaging presentation with about 20 minutes .

1. Know your stuff - sounds obvious - but know it on stage. You need to rehearse, even if a pre-rehersal at your conference isn't possible. That way you reduce the "ooms" and "ahs" and pregnant pauses.

2. Know your audience - that is in the presentation of ideas and the language used. I know this from bitter experience 8 years ago on Flash on the Beach. Ask the question what does the audience want?

3. If you're planning on talking about yourself, ask yourself what value it has for the audience. This is all about framing which Rebecca Murch executed well. Her story, she framed, was a allegory for others considering business and how to over come hurdles.

4. Keep to an idea. 20 minutes is almost Pecha Kucha area so it pays not to open so many strange or technical words that need unpacking

Sunday, June 10, 2012

To the things they are - Journalism. How we shouldn't teach


The question was asked and produced the cacophony of predictable responses. "To show what's happening", "to root out corruption", "to inform us".

Asking what the purpose of news is, is the equivalent of tatooing your forehead with "imbecile". It's puzzling and denigrating to you and the great doyens of the profession.

As a former broadcaster, who still practices independent videojournalism I could be equally irked, but I have an itch that requires scratching.

Working for ABC News in SA.
So what's the purpose of news in the media machine age?  My thanks to Paddy Scannell whose ideas have catalysed my own. [fade to black]

A hypothetical experiment, for it can only be hypothetical imagines, like the crew of Aliens, we awake from a deep coma to find out we live in a world such as this in which various technologies exist, such as this, and that we try to describe what it is we're faced with by building knowledge that has not been filtered through others.

Michel Foucalt referred to it as discursive formation. It is when, say, a new technology is formatted around  the institutional settings of a previous technology. Hence an expressive ingenious creative form such as twitter becomes redefined by the act of (instant) broadcasting, when it had a previous aim.

This embodies the train of thought employed by phenomenologists who urge us to look at things the way they are, and sadly phenomenological enquiry is not practiced within media according to Scannell.  In the 1970s academics opted for sociology - studying forms within society - but you the individual, forge-labou-it.

Inside the Matrix

Freelancing  for the BBC 1987 onwards

A super academic word, phenomenology, it seeks to understand the world by asking questions about everyday things, which we often take for granted. You can trace it back to the daddy in Husserl, but more contemporary experts include Harold Garfinkle.

To gauge a meaning of phenomenology, place a teenager next to a baby boomer who has no knowledge of the new machine world or for this sake is like one of the crew from Aliens - they've been asleep for a while.

The teenager assumes the world was always googlable. The baby boomer remembers a world without instant search and the machines world's acceptable Tourette's writing syndrome - Twitter. The baby boomer learns by assimilation, and what if that boomer had a fertile skeptics brain?  What would she make of twitter?

Now this all sounds terribly dense and academic, but I'm not the academic type and I'm neither looking for dense debates.

In the practical scheme of things, how does such thinking help? If we consider things by themselves, then we begin to see things by themselves and what factors impact on them.  I'll provide an example.

Journalists are taught to be objective and rightly so, a position valorised in the late 19th century to stop this band of new professionals, calling themselves journalists from lying to readers. You must be objective.

100 years odd later, the chorus is there is no such thing as objectivity; like the emperors no clothes, it was an illusion that held.

So today new positions are being adopted, such as "transparency" and "pragmatic objectivity". The latter by Professor Stephen Ward is a basic questioning of ... can you really be objective? Since the answer is no, but the word "objective" has become tainted, Ward's "pragmatic objectivity" will suffice.

What he says is equally interesting, in that objectivity was never meant to be dissociated from personal feelings, it just happended.  Here comes the fascinating thing now. If you ask a 100 journos what they think objectivity means, you'll more or less get the same answer.

The meaning of things
Foucalt's discursive formation is at work again. We know what we know because often it is filtered to us from the fruits of a tree that at some point became poison. So you ask the question: what does objectivity mean, and what you realise is that even if the word has not changed, the conditions that we live in from 100 years ago have.

Scannell makes a point in his writings that suits me too. It's not I'm claming to be clever, oh nooo, but when conditions change, its beholden on us to find ways of adressing those changes.

So even as Ward states the word has not quite been interpreted correctly, in today's machine world we need to look at the word again. We need to perform phenomenology.

Why this matters, not the example per se, but this way of thinking is because it orientates us into considering things we should not take for granted.

That is to look at journalism in ways that ask what is it meant for. Or if that sounds too existentialist to start educating a generation where they question what they're told.

At the very least it revives a "get out and find out" attitude. You want to know the facts, go and find them.

This is precisely what videojournalists did almost 20 years ago with television. They asked why should it take on all the things television does.

Now in case you thought that question is a imbecilic, I did some work with Ghana TV some time ago and was quite taken to discover the management looked on television as a socially cohesive force.

In the Machine World, journalism and many other professions require far more actioanable thinking than we might think, without being wedded to Occams razor - which is the path of least resistant thinking.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Video is not a succession of photographic images - just say no!

In 1994 a Vj applying for a job, who would later become one of the best submitted his first shoot with his camera turned vertically. So what did the hiring team do?

The stuck the camera in the television, firstly all of them clocked their heads sideways. Then someone thought, hey..... and turned the TV on its side.

Just as well as the Vjs career was born. Anyway... this video is more funnier than that!

Monday, June 04, 2012

How the world of film is questioning issues within digital media

Ridley Scott's much expected mega-cinematic release confirms if we did not know already our pursuance of that horizon called self and identity. A journey that repositions that perennial question, "who we are" and "what are we doing?".

Hollywood has often been a metronome, as well as echo of the social realm for how we feel in society. Film Noir, in the 1950s was the legacy of war and the fear of the enemy amongst us.

The 60s was liberation, the Paris Riots and the spirit of youthfulness in the Graduate (1967).... fast forward to the 90s and the flux of digital and analogue following a period of 80s excess.

And now, Tree of Life (2011), Inception (2010), , 21 Grams (2003), and Prometheus brings us back to what's there but cannot be easily seen, an era of self-questioning and consciousness.

Who are you, twitter might help you confirm. How do you see yourself, Facebook provides the illusion, but it's only that  - a simulacrum.

Who are you?
The renewed interest in Heidegger (Time and Being); Deluze et al,  is further testimony. Yes, Prometheus could be seen as nothing more than a solid film, but without a plot that cuts to the heart of our deeper emotions e.g. fears, angers and angst - the zeitgeist - it would not resonate so much.

And given what the film world has next planned inplementing psycho-responses courtesy of the sensum to measure in real time how you feel, technology, Baudrillard would be horrified to know is now mining our feelings.

Getting access to implicit meaning, (existentialism) that unwittingly drives us, could me more valuable than anything we've known so far.

And then the echo effect. A movie captures a message and then amplifies it so often it becomes popular culture.  When fictional Wall Streeter Gordon Gekko emerged from jail, 23 years later, despite the fact he couldn't shake of his greed, its director, Stone would wish human value should in the end triumph.

But there's something else more intriguing to observe than the quickening of pace the digital era has wrought, which has its mirror in the media.

The men behind the big busters are children of pre-digital generations. In Ridley's case post-WWII.

There's an interesting theory in this which emerged from a BBC radio feedback programme, in which editors were questioned why they took various choices to feature in controversial programmes e.g. a troubled teenager at home, and broadcasting live from an abortion clinic.

Their response was measured, if not, overall, at times not convincing. Being in an institution allows one to gain varied knowledge, including how to gauge the "middle-bell curve" audience in say taste and decency.

But the entrepreneurial spirit of the digital age, while I am myself an aficionado, runs the risk that outside of the institutions of ingrained knowledge, the individual unwittingly forfeits powerful debates which would help shape her.

That's one reason why we will continue to go into a building, with many others to study, or watch a film with friends. It's collective knowledge sharing.

Scott, the sage, alludes to that within the institution of film, yet while being outside a knowledge institution has its draw backs, what we're not seeing is the sort of bold themes in broadcasting that are addressing the very issues being projected in cinema.

Shame that. Perhaps it's time for the old guard to shake of the race for the next new thing and look at what they do best and some.

David interviewing former head of the CIA on

Author David Dunkley Gyimah is an international award winning journalism innovator, publisher of, a  trainer and ethnographer who's PhD research involves cognition and social effects in storytelling. He trained at the BBC and has worked for some of the world's leading news agencies and consulted for various international clients. He can be contacted at 

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Why rhetoric doesn't necessarily work in the Internet generation and we need a new model

The UK government, an alliance between the diminishing third man of politics ( the lib-dems) and the Tories, has in the last week performed 33 u-turns on policies it brought in during its last budget. 

This includes lifting a tax on warm pies. Yes, you could not make this up.

Its culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt (pictured top far left) , whose surname ellicits perennial strokes of dark humour, causing on air broadcasters to bark profanities of the female anatomy kind, is also in trouble.

One minute he was being all propitious to James Murdoch about the imminent victory of their multi billion pound bid to take over BSkyB, then minutes later when handed the portfolio by his Prime Minister had discovered probity.

Whatever his feelings that day, his love would not get in the way of him acting proper. Er!

In Syria, as in other oligarchic regimes, unimaginable inhumane acts take place with governments blithely denying any knowledge or wrong doing.

It's unfortunate that this example should occupy the same space as the aforementioned, for they are considerably different things, but they share a common trait.

That trait is the power of rhetoric.

Anyone who has taken part in a school debating contest will understand. The issue is not whether you're right or wrong, but that whether you can be persuasive enough through a choice of logic-deductive themes, whilst ignoring others that hurt you.

On the other side of the fence your opponent's goal is to lance your position by supplying equally powerful themes, in destroying your argument and building their own case.

To do this, they need evidence, which helps if its free of partisanship and there's an audience that has power to take measurable action. It often matters little whether you're liked or not, so long as the power levers to officially usurp your authority is in check, whilst you still crave power.

Anyone who has been to a public school, will probably acknowledge the putative rights society confers on them. " You are born leaders", they will likely be told, and you can alway call someone a blithering idiot if you don't like them.

Then again you don't need to have been to public school, but it's not uncommon to be imperious.  I went to a boarding secondary school in Ghana, set up by Eton scholars, which has churned out some of the country's elites. Its motto was at least "Sound knowledge and mind" Suban ni Nimdee.

Rhetoric sits at the heart of media missives. Facebook's IPO had many believe it was fair and just. Someone somewhere was able to pierce through the media message with a different message - one many wanted to believe.

And that's the point with rhetoric, it takes the form of enthymeme such as a= good and nice, b= looks like a, therefore b could be good and nice, otherwise rhetoric is wrapped up in what literary essayist call topoi - a figurative speech that captures the mood, speaks to your audience e.g. "We're all in this together".

Similarly rhetoricians will find an example and magnify its import. It is the reason why anytime a film is reviewed a critic is likely to focus on one area- the narrative, technical themes or the style.

Rhetoric is one of the key areas as a critique of films and websites that we teach. In my experience it isn't by any means easy, because the power of good rhetoric lies in understanding the exemplars in your field and then constructing an argument through them, without always mentioning their name.

Yet at a time when greater transparency has become a prerequesite for an internet generation, dialectisms perhaps might be a better discourse promoted. Here the logic is a reasoning within an argument to produce a credible narrative of truth.

That's effectively what the Net and Twitter in particular promotes. Anyone acting pompous, gets hammered (figure of speech) and rightly so.

It means we must sometimes hold up hands and claim we're wrong, and whilst that goes against political ideology of now, perhaps its something we should anchor down into our classrooms and try and prevent new generations from believing they're owed something.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Great film making and a brief visual history of UK videojournalism

Two young children play in the background, we never see their faces. Their father needs to get in touch with them. Their mother is set to commit suicide. 

Through a series of flashbacks within flashbacks, the father finds redemption.

Guess the film? But before you say Inception, think again.

The film is the Phantom Carriage by Swedish film maker and director Victor Sjostrom. It was made in 1921 during the silent film era and is believed to be the first film which employed flashbacks and flashforwards.

In fact so innovative is the film that there is a flashback within a flashback followed by a flash forward which still doesn't bring you to the present. Please watch this if you want to increase your film knowledge.

Less we in the 21st century are feeling a little superior about our film making, film experts believe a large swathe of our film syntax and grammar was laid down before we entered sound movies in the 1930s. And better still the nonsense about will audiences understand...forget that!

Just when we thought we had it figured out, we realise we're standing on the shoulders of giants and their giants.

This video is the first draft cut; the second features Michael Rosenblum.

There's a case to be made with videojournalism as this video that I strung together above shows. The year is 1994 - when President Mandela became South Africa's first black president - a story that still leaves with me as I broadcast live from South Africa on the BBC World Service. (see sidebars)

But the kind of non-conforming programme making, or a break from conventional forms can be attributed to the BBC in the 1980s/90s. Though they rarely speak about this.

The essence of good programme making is to understand the myriad of different forms and styles and then make a choice to produce your material. I'll be speaking about this and providing other tips in a series of workshops in London, Cairo and Dubai, so if you're around be good to talk.